Study: Red and white meat might have equal effects on blood cholesterol

In a study that could debunk years of conventional wisdom, researchers are reporting that red meat and white meat might have equal effects on blood cholesterol.  The findings suggest that factors other than saturated fat may better explain the long-touted link between red meat consumption and heart disease. The study also showed that plant proteins are healthier for blood cholesterol levels than both red and white meat.

The study is one of the first detailed comparisons of the effects of different sources of dietary proteins on blood cholesterol. It evaluated changes in the participants’ blood cholesterol levels after eating diets containing high levels of proteins from either lean red meat, lean white meat, or non-meat sources (including vegetables). Participants included 113 healthy men and women between 21-65 years old. They consumed each of the three high-protein diets for four weeks in random order, and the researchers tested blood cholesterol levels after each dietary type.

The researchers found that consuming high levels of saturated fat was associated with an increase in blood cholesterol, regardless of meat type, and that both types of meat protein resulted in higher blood cholesterol than the non-meat diets. The study, called the APPROACH trial (Animal and Plant Protein and Cardiovascular Health), appeared in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. It was supported by the NHLBI and the NIH National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences.